How Bosch Digital Solutions helps to shape the future of the Internet of Things
By Maxim Polikarpov
poly-E-fair Company Relations Manager
March 22, 2021
By Maxim Polikarpov
poly-E-fair Company Relations Manager
March 22, 2021
As a leading provider in the Internet of Things (IoT), Bosch offers innovative solutions for smart homes, Industry 4.0, and connected mobility. They use their expertise in sensor technology, software, and services. Bosch’s strategic objective is to facilitate connected living with products and solutions containing artificial intelligence (AI) or have been developed or manufactured with its help.
To better understand IoT developments at Bosch, today, we spoke with Moritz Kaminski and Dominic Woerner from Bosch Digital Solutions (BDS). Located in Zurich, BDS is pushing forward innovative projects in IoT and decentralized identity. Having the initial goal to bridge research at the Bosch IoT Lab with the requirements of Bosch’s global business units, BDS is connecting R&D and product development for the benefit of the final customer. In our interview Moritz and Dominic shared their experience and gave valuable advice for fresh ETH graduates on how to become successful together with Bosch.
All roads lead to Bosch
Moritz Kaminski did his Master’s in banking and finance at the University of St. Gallen in 2014. After working for a couple of years in a German venture capital fund, Moritz gained broad experience in entrepreneurship and finance and decided to make a change. “I wanted to get an experience on how to build up a young business from scratch”, – Moritz says.
So in 2017, Moritz got an invitation to help create a new department or, better to say, startup, associated with Bosch. The idea was to start a new business, focused on the Internet of Things, with a very interdisciplinary team and complementary expertise from a business, technology and operations side. Apart from a perfect interest-, topic-wise and personal fit, it was also a new interesting challenge, which Moritz decided to take.
Dominic Woerner, our second interviewee, studied physics in Germany and was thinking of continuing with a research path in a Ph.D. “But then I just thought that I don’t want to become a professor, and in addition, I never worked in industry”, – Dominic says. That is how Dominic joined Bosch Energy and Building Solutions GmbH with an internship in 2011. Implementing projects to make buildings more energy-efficient, Dominic learned responsibility: “I joined the team when there were just a few people, but in just a couple of months, it grew to almost 100”.
One day, Dominic found information about a new IoT lab that would be created in St Gallen as a shared project between ETH Zürich, Bosch, and the University of St. Gallen. He already had some IoT experience by making buildings more efficient and was very excited about this topic. So, he decided to join this lab for a Ph.D., and by the end, the lab head built a new team that bridges the lab and Bosch. That was exactly what Dominic was looking for, so he joined a freshly built structure, which is currently called Bosch Digital Solutions.
Combining the best elements of startup and big company
Bosch Digital Solutions (BDS) is a very special setup. Formally being a department of Robert Bosch AG, it develops business on its own: as an own profit center, it acts independently from corporate headquarters and serves its own customers both from internal business units of Bosch and external companies.
Having all competencies in-house, BDS is highly independent: in a team of three, Moritz is responsible for business development, sales, marketing & administration. While Dominic is more focused on product development and solution architecture.
“We build solutions by ourselves and do not rely on others. It makes us very quick. and market-oriented.”
Being in between the IoT Lab at the ETH and Bosch, BDS picks innovative R&D ideas, provides proof of concepts, and ultimately creates a final product that the customers implement. Leading the IoT developments inside Bosch, BDS has a big strength: it has to consider at the same time R&D – technology push – and customer orientation – market pull. Otherwise, one risks creating an exciting tech solution that cannot solve the problem that the customer is willing to solve.
“The products are made for people. We listen to potential customers, reveal their problems, and propose solutions.”
BDS essential feature is a unique opportunity to be a combination of a startup with the great potential to grow, and still have a backup of the internationally recognised brand with roughly 394,500 employees, with support from numerous experts in technology, automotive, consumer goods, and IoT. Big freedom, of course, comes with a big responsibility. The more innovative the solution is, the more corporate development and consulting BDS has to do: BDS needs to provide a solution or product, and convince customers that the new solution is more efficient than the current technology.
Spirit of development
Dominic and Moritz both stress the unique and very positive culture at BDS. The reason for that is quite simple. Being owned by a foundation, Bosch can plan over the long term and implement projects in the interest of all stakeholders. At the same time, Bosch is a social enterprise and wants to really help people. This means big responsibility and sustainability.
“Values of Bosch resonate with me.”
In addition to that, Bosch is big, and one can always find several different challenges to tackle. Moritz and Dominic appreciate this innovative spirit combined with the opportunity to build real products and serve end customers.
Although big companies may be hierarchical, Bosch pushes a shift to new management concepts and more autonomous teams, where the boss becomes a coach who helps people to be as efficient as possible. In particular, this transforms into a flat structure at BDS, where every team member is responsible for their own tasks. Because of this autonomy, Dominic and Moritz feel empowered.
“The time spent together with a team is super rewarding.”
A collaborative spirit also continues outside of work hours. The BDS team often meets for lunch, beers and participates in running competitions as a team. Even during the challenging time of the COVID-19 outbreak, the team still meets for e-beers and holds calls daily. Already, they are looking forward to moving to a new office in Zurich after the lockdown is over, so they can see each other regularly again.
Projects that transform the future
Speaking of the favourite projects, Moritz and Dominic both highlight the “Smart fridge”. This project was implemented for an Austrian energy utility to allow communication between the utility and fridges of nearby households’ users. As a result of the project, BDS implemented a system in which a utility could grant access to the fridge in real-time, monitoring it from the mobile app: the temperature, opening and closure times. It allowed to better approximate electricity consumption, so the utility could make tailored price offers to the household users. Better control of energy consumption enabled sustainability. The user could now reserve a certain amount of electricity and select renewable energy to power this fridge. Dominic adds that it was also a very nice experience of how fast they built up a team together with employees of the utility: “After just two meetings, we set up the agile team, and in two sprints, we had results that we could present”. “It was very inspiring to see your solutions working the next day”, – adds Dominic.
Being an example of daily technical challenges at BDS, this project also highlights a big trend of switching to renewable energy and carbon neutrality not only in Bosch (which is carbon neutral since 2020), but in all parts of its supply chain. Dominic adds that innovation projects in renewable energy get more and more attraction from business units and higher management, helping Bosch, its partners, and customers become more sustainable.
“We are bound by our imagination only.”
Another big topic at BDS is decentralized identity. The project aims to make a system to allow the user to better manage his own identity in the modern digital world. Simply imagine, says Moritz, that you have a single app on your smartphone that can specifically grant access to other users or services. This would make your life much simpler – instead of using your university ID card, you would have it on your smartphone. You could use it to access the gate or to prove your student status at the canteen and get a reduction. It will be much safer, easier, and quicker than today. One could forget about numerous passwords, cards, and accounts — just a push notification on your phone.
BDS currently works on the infrastructure and applications, trying to find the best market fit and build new products. “Being part of a big open-source consortium, together we create something that could have lots of implications on people and society, making our world a better place”, – Dominic adds. This all produces a very nice combination of public research and applied projects from which users can benefit already tomorrow.
Shaping for the future
The big trend of future development in Bosch is bringing IoT and AI together. Connecting devices is just a first step, while the second step is even more challenging – to get use of the produced data and build more intelligent products. The IoT slowly evolves in a so-called Economy of Things, when devices negotiate and make decisions. Moritz gives an example of the recent prototype developed at Bosch: the electric car could negotiate about a charging slot with a charging station, including the price of the electricity provided. What can be considered futuristic, but is today’s reality. Bosch works hard on its transformation from solely a hardware company to becoming a software provider to help people in a modern digital world.
“If you are open, self-driven, proactive, and willing to learn, you will enjoy working at BDS.”
Speaking of the core skills that BDS appreciates, Moritz and Dominic stress creativity, curiosity and openness to new ideas and culture. Moritz adds: “In a highly innovative and dynamic environment like BDS, one has to constantly learn new things, adapt quickly, be able to understand customer problems, and build solutions that could solve them. In a startup environment, you should also be ready to take responsibility for the risks you take. And if everything goes well, this will lead to a high reward.”
“You grow by stepping out from a comfort zone.”
BDS looks for applicants with technical profiles. Successful candidates know how to do something meaningful with code, to help BDS build a better world for everyone. Also, the applicant should be able to not only understand and process complex topics, but also be a good colleague and communicator within the team. Soft skills play a vital role and, in most cases, are more effective than purely technical skills.
Cultural fit is another important aspect for BDS. Therefore, as a part of the hiring strategy, BDS provides a unique opportunity to spend a “trial week” within a department to ensure that there is a great fit.
Advice for job hunters
“Find something which is really interesting for you and the rest somehow works out.”
How to prepare for poly-E-fair or any other job fair? How to maximize your outcome in interactions with companies and Bosch specifically? These are always the questions that people ask themselves during a job hunt. Moritz and Dominic share their opinion.
They both agree that knowing what you want from your life and career is paramount to achieve success. “You should think about the topics and industries that light your inner fire and make you move forward. Having a clear understanding of your own desires, please study the company website, especially the section with the latest projects. If the presented ideas resonate within you – definitely come and talk with us at Poly-E-fair on April 13th of 2021. Ask questions and clarify if your expectations match reality, make sure to get a detailed picture of the company and tasks. You don’t need a prepared CV, but be ready to introduce yourself so we can also have a chance to know you better”, – they say.
Why do I love working at Bosch?
After a short thought, Dominic says: “Working with smart people on important topics.” Here Moritz adds: “Because we learn from colleagues a lot. We have the same mindset when it comes to how to build new applications and services”.